Euro 2020: ‘Gloves off’ for Wales against Denmark in last 16, says Robert Page

Venue: Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam Date: Saturday, 26 June Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC One and S4C, live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru, the BBC Sport website and app, plus live text and score updates

The “gloves are off” for Wales as they prepare to face Denmark in their Euro 2020 last-16 tie in Amsterdam.

But Wales have history on their minds, having reached the knockout stages for a third time in three major finals.

“We are ready for a battle because it is going to be a battle,” said interim manager Robert Page.

“It’s all out now. The gloves are off. We are in the knockout stages… We are fully ready for it.”

After losing to Brazil in the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup, Wales had to wait 58 years for their next appearance at a major tournament.

They ended that barren spell in spectacular fashion at Euro 2016, scaling new heights by surging into the semi-finals.

That was always likely to be a tough act to follow but simply qualifying for Euro 2020 – never mind reaching the knockout stages – is an achievement nobody associated with Welsh football has taken for granted.

“It feels different. We don’t have our fans in the stadium, which is disappointing,” says captain Gareth Bale, one of the stars in France five years ago.

“All we can do is when we get on the pitch, focus on ourselves, focus on our gameplan and try and give the best account as ourselves.”

While Bale experienced the euphoria of Euro 2016 – not to mention winning four Champions League titles – this second-round tie against Denmark will represent a career high for Page.

The former Wales centre-back has been in charge since November 2020, stepping up from his role as assistant coach in the continued absence of permanent manager Ryan Giggs.

Page’s previous managerial roles were with Wales Under-21s and lower-league clubs Port Vale and Northampton Town.

“Of course this is the highlight and pinnacle of my personal career from a management point of view,” said Page. “It is a challenge I am enjoying and absolutely relishing.

“It is an absolute honour to be sat here, to represent Wales like this. The players feel exactly the same.

“The support we have had from back home, the messages we have had. There were kids in school today singing the anthem for us. It’s a montage of clips we are going to put together and show the players.

“We know that, come kick-off, all of Wales will be behind us.”

Wales reached the last 16 by finishing second in Group A, drawing with Switzerland and beating Turkey before losing to group winners Italy.

Denmark have provided the uplifting story of the tournament, showing great compassion and resilience after their opening fixture against Finland was overshadowed when Eriksen collapsed on the pitch.

Eriksen has since been discharged from hospital and, in his absence but with the Inter Milan player very much in their thoughts, Denmark beat Russia 4-1 in an emotional encounter on Monday to reach the second round as runners-up in Group B.

With all that in mind, Denmark are seen as the neutrals’ favourites at Euro 2020 and, at Amsterdam’s Johan Cruyff Arena, they will be playing at a stadium which used to be home to Eriksen and several other Danes who have represented Ajax.

“There is a huge connection between Amsterdam, Ajax and Denmark,” says Denmark head coach Kasper Hjulmand.

“We have a huge connection to this city and I hope everyone in the Netherlands will feel the same tomorrow, and I hope they will come in red and white and not orange.

“I respect Wales and all they’ve done. They remind us about ourselves – they are also proud to represent their country. We know that Wales have a lot of qualities but so do we.”

Team news

Wales have no new injury concerns for Saturday’s encounter, with Page expected to revert to his strongest line-up.

Only Ethan Ampadu is unavailable because he is suspended after getting sent off as Wales were beaten 1-0 by Italy in their final group game.

Page benched striker Kieffer Moore and defenders Ben Davies and Chris Mepham for that match because all three were one yellow card away from a one-match suspension.

Although Moore and Davies appeared as substitutes in Rome, they avoided another caution and are set to join Mepham in being recalled.

That should also mean that Wales revert to the 4-2-3-1 formation they used in their opening 1-1 draw with Switzerland and 2-0 win over Turkey, as opposed to the 3-4-3 system Page opted for against Italy.

Denmark have no new fitness issues and look likely to stick with the back-three system which proved effective against Russia.

Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis, Nielsen’s Gracenote:

“Wales-Denmark is the tightest game in this second round but the Danes are favourites according to Gracenote’s Euro 2020 forecast with 58% chance of progress compared to 42% for Wales.”

Match facts

  • Denmark have won six of the previous 10 meetings, with Wales winning four.
  • The Danes defeated Wales twice in the 2018 Nations League, with Christian Eriksen scoring both goals in a 2-0 win in Aarhus.
  • Wales could lose back-to-back competitive games for the first time since June 2019.
  • Denmark were winners at Euro 92, finished fourth in 1964 and reached the semi-finals in 1984 but this is their first appearance in the Euros knockout stages since 2004. They lost 3-0 to the Czech Republic in the quarter-final.
  • Mikkel Damsgaard (20 years 353 days) became Denmark’s youngest goalscorer at a major tournament in the win versus Russia. He has three goals and three assists in his past five caps.
  • Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has three assists in three games at Euro 2020. One more would set a new national record for assists in a single major tournament.

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